I don’t know about your Christmas, but our family had a very enjoyable family gathering. Our whole family gets together immediately before Christmas to allow our family members to meet with their own or extended family on Christmas Day. We started this custom some years ago and it works for us. The good news is that we get to open some of our presents early, something that the children are particularly happy about.
You can see by the photo above, that everyone, including the dog, is happy to be together. In these days of family fragmentation, this is quite an achievement.
Why are we all so happy to be in each other’s company? I thought you would never ask!
Well, I have a hidden secret, that’s not so hidden if you have been reading my missives for any length of time.
That hidden secret for success in family life is ‘prayer’, or more specifically ‘God’. I don’t often share my hidden secret so openly but, on our family Christmas Eve celebration, I was so enjoying the moment and reflecting on the bliss of having a happy family, I got to thinking about why this is so? and why it is not so for many others?
You are probably thinking that I had a blissful experience growing up, so happy families produce happy families? The latter is true, but the former was not.
Happy intact families tend to produce happy intact families. All the studies show that couples who stay married transmit huge benefits to their children: the children will be healthier, wealthier, achieve better results in education, be less likely to die from accident or injury, are much more likely to have a successful marriage and family themselves, and the list of benefits just goes on and on.
But I was not part of a blissfully happy family. From my perspective, I grew up in World War III, but although my parents did not divorce (and I am thankful for this), the intensity of their conflict meant that they lived apart for the greater part of their married lives. It was a turbulent existence for my brother and I and by the time I had reached high school I had attended 13 different schools. The police used to visit our home on the odd occasion and my brother and I were almost deposited into a boy’s home/orphanage when I was about nine years old. In modern parlance, I came from a ‘divorced’ or broken home where bliss was in short supply.
Children from such homes suffer from an overwhelming weight of negative statistics. Children from broken homes are over twice as likely to get involved in drugs, and nine times more likely to get involved in crime, 50% more likely to develop health problems, 200% more likely to drop out of school, 50% more likely to have a broken family themselves and the list of negatives just goes on and on.
I have experienced some of these first hand. I dropped out of high school and almost got involved in drugs. One of my school friends did time in jail for his drug related endeavours. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was a broken young man who was desperately in need of a happy family to model my life on.
How did I discover the hidden secret that caused me so many years later to enjoy my own happy family?
In my mid-teens I found God, or I should say, God found me. I started walking my life’s journey with the maker of the Universe and talking to Him daily.
I asked Him to take over my life and guide me. As a result, I moved to Wollongong from the Blue Mountains, I moved in with the beloved Beard Family, which looking back, saved my skin in more ways than one. The police were no longer required to adjudicate the fights, and for two and a half years I lived in the normality of a two parent, married household. The saying from the world’s best-selling book says it well, “God sets the solitary in families”.
With help from heaven I met my wife, and importantly, also became part of a church family with God at the centre, and so grew in the grace of God. I started going to men’s camps, family weekends, marriage seminars and developed mentoring relationships with older couples who also modeled good marriages and healthy families. This was very important.
You have heard the saying, ‘every little bit helps’? That is more than true when you have a broken heart and need healing in a thousand different ways that cannot be expressed. Such healing takes decades and I am sure it is still going on today.
So, from my background and such damning statistics, you can tell that I was heading for not only personal disaster but a family train wreck as well. My prayer as a teenager, (although unuttered), is best articulated in the song co-written by Dylan and Bono ‘Love Rescue Me’ and is still my prayer to this day.
My unspoken prayer was answered. It has taken a lifetime to work it out (as these things often do) and I have had innumerable failures both has a husband and father. But love keeps rescuing me, because you Gotta Serve Somebody and the Prince of Love is a very gracious taskmaster.
Think about the big questions of life! If you don’t, who will?
In last week’s missive ‘Star Wars and the Christmas Story’ I quoted the wise words of the Star Wars’ producer: ‘Not having enough interest in the mysteries of life to ask the question, “Is there a God or is there not a God?” – that is for me the worst thing that can happen. I think you should have an opinion about that. Or you should be saying, “I’m looking. I’m very curious about this, and I am going to continue to look until I can find an answer, and if I can’t find an answer, then I’ll die trying.”
Make it your quest for the New Year to meet the Prince of Love face to face. Take it from me, you will never regret it, nor will your family.
Best wishes for the New Year
PS. So if anything, the photo above of my family is more a picture about the grace of God. I don’t deserve it and I can’t say I have earned it, but I am a well-known ‘try hard’. This is the beautiful mystery of God’s grace. Soli Deo Gloria!